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TIME MAGAZINE: October 29, 1965

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It may have been posted before-- but I couldn't find it.

Anyway, I just came across this TIME Magazine article from October 29, 1965 about the bitter end of the 64/65 fair.

To the Bitter End

Friday, Oct. 29, 1965

The beginning, it has often been said, augurs the end. Certainly the axiom proved true of the New York World's Fair. It opened to disappointing crowds on a cold, rainy day in April 1964, with militant CORE picket lines all but blocking major avenues and hecklers disrupting President Johnson's send-off speech. Last week it closed with a frightening scene straight out of a Federico Fellini film fantasy.

While thousands of revelers swayed to the strains of Auld Lang Syne and The Star-Spangled Banner, prim ladies in tweed suits feverishly uprooted all the chrysanthemums recently planted for a permanent park, stuffed them into their pocketbooks or pinned them onto their hats. Tipsy men wantonly ripped signs from buildings, kicked over trash baskets, waded in the Unisphere fountain, and shinned up the 20-ft. poles near the United Nations Plaza to capture the flags. One man completely gutted a statue of King Tut near the Egyptian Pavilion, another attacked a copy of an ancient vase outside the Greek Pavilion with a hammer, while hundreds of people watched in silence.

Everything from saltcellars to cameras was stolen as souvenirs.

Deflated Balloons.

Lamentable as the vandalism was, it made little difference. The following day, demolition crews moved into the evacuated fairgrounds to pick up where the tourists had left off. The balloons above the ten Brass Rail Restaurants were deflated, and the food stands themselves were prepared for the bulldozer. The motorless Fords and Mercurys at the Ford Pavilion were packed away on car trailers and shipped off to Detroit, where the company will add the motors, sell them to employees at cut rates. The talking Lincoln statue from the Illinois Pavilion was carefully crated, sent by moving van to Disneyland.

Missed Guess.

While fair participants were salvaging what they could, fair investors were licking their wounds. The day before closing, Robert Moses issued a grim report to stockholders. In spite of 51 million visitors, 6,000,000 more than any other world's fair, the fair had been a fiscal flop: Moses' calculations had been based on 70 million.

As a consequence, the Fair Corp. could not pay back its $24 million loan from the city. Instead, New York will have to console itself with the sales taxes on the $750 million worth of business the fair brought to metropolitan restaurants, hotels and shops. Moses further announced that he could pay only 500 on the dollar on $29 million in promissory notes, and that the huge network of playgrounds he had hoped to build in Queens with his surplus profits would have to wait—perhaps forever. The Fair Corp. still had enough left in its coffers to follow through on one big promise—to turn the fairgrounds into a city park. The city is now negotiating to keep the handsome Federal Building as a training center for high school dropouts and the New York State Pavilion as an all-purpose theater. Other permanent fixtures are the Hall of Science and the heliport, which will become the focal point for an eleven-acre zoo.

The most lasting memento at Flushing Meadow is not to be seen. At the Westinghouse Pavilion, buried in a 50-ft. steel shaft and sealed so as to last 5,000 years, is a Time Capsule crammed full of documents and artifacts. Among them: a tranquilizer, a birth-control pill, a pack of filter cigarettes, a blue and white bikini, and photographs of Joe DiMaggio, Errol Flynn and Adolf Hitler—but not one of Robert Moses.

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prim ladies in tweed suits feverishly uprooted all the chrysanthemums recently planted for a permanent park, stuffed them into their pocketbooks or pinned them onto their hats.

in retrospect, the idea that flowers could survive two years of massive demolition work seems pretty silly. There was no way that people were going to go around and carefully "water the flowers".

I doubt that was ever the intention in the first place.

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It's as if everyone felt as if they had license to destroy.

Most people must have thought "well it's all going to be leveled tomorrow." True, but didn't any of these people grasp that some pavillion owners (or the city) might want to save something from the fair? Didn't they realize that some of what was there might be slated to be used later, somehow?

I know I'd be tempted to take a memento. Something that, clearly, wasn't going to be used again. I wouldn't be immune to that. It's just that I can't conceive of destroying anything. (I think I'd also still be prone to asking permission from someone before I took anything. )

The last day seems like such public bedlam.

What a shame that the remaining buildings never fully filled their planned purpose.

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I think my uncle Tony once said something regarding the Tut statue: "This here mister Tut better remember when he plays da ponies at the Goodfellas Indian tribe casino he better pay his markers. We payed him a little visit and told him the next time he sleeps with the fish!"

Don't ask me what that means, some quaint Indian custom or other.

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In hindsight, since nothing was really salvaged from the fair, it would have saved the fair corporation a lot of money if they just let people enter the place for the next several weeks and take anything they wanted.

Heck, the mobs would have even levelled the buildings, just for the fun of it. Never underestimate the power of vandals at work, especially when they are given free reign to destroy.

I personally was there at the end and witnesssed people taking anything and everything they could get their hands on. It was almost like a competitive race to see who could pillage the most loot, a real carnival atmosphere. People were deleriously happy to be taking part in the destruction, including even those from apparently better walks of life. The Pinks early on did all they could at the gates to confiscate the goods, but by the end of the day, they themselves were helping folks take souveniers out to their cars.

Like Rose said above, people knew it was all going to be destoyed tommorw, so who cared what was being wrecked today; it just seemed like the fun thing to do! Maybe this was human nature at its ugliest, but did it really make a difference? Didn't NY wreck and pillage their own pavilion in the end?

So you have to ask yourself, who was really any better for the experience?

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it just seemed like the fun thing to do! Maybe this was human nature at its ugliest, but did it really make a difference? Didn't NY wreck and pillage their own pavilion in the end?

Great idea for a future World's Fair- have an Attila the Hun Pavilion- where visitors could pillage all they want.

(not rape and pillage, of course, just pillage.)

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If you can believe it, I actually went to a party in college which was called BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE (after the 80's song of the same name). And the location of the party was a summer home in Newport Beach that was slated to be razed for a major remodel a few days afterward. So as each of the party guests arrived-- we were handed a pair of goggles and a hammer-- and actually encouraged to tear the *%$?! out of the house-- however we saw fit. It was a completely surreal, not to mention somewhat frightening experience, let me tell you. And by the time it was over-- there was little more than wooden framing left. When they feel they have nothing to lose... people are basically animals, in my opinion.

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As I recall, that Time magazine article also included a photograph of properly attired matronly looking women uprooting

flowers in a garden along the central mall of the Fair grounds with throngs of visitors all around them. The caption reads:

"Looting To The Strains of Auld Lang Syne."

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